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Empowerment of physically disabled federal employees who use assistive technology for mobility: A phenomenological study

ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, 2009
Dissertation
Author: Susan Faye Baechler
Abstract:
This qualitative, empirical phenomenological study focused on the observations of 13 federal employees concerning the empowerment afforded employees with physical disabilities in an organization who use assistive technology for mobility. The 13 federal employees were interviewed to assess their lived experiences of empowerment as it applies to federal employees with physical disabilities who use assistive technology for mobility. Horizonalization, techniques and textural and structural descriptions were applied to produce clear and common themes. Three major themes emerged: (a) observed empowerment, (b) differences in empowerment and (c) causes for differences in empowerment. The results of the study allowed three main conclusions to be drawn: (a) physically disabled federal employees who use assistive technology for mobility and their non-disabled counterparts were empowered equally. (b) differences of empowerment between employees with and without disabilities were nonexistent (c) causes of differences in empowerment between physically disabled federal employees who use assistive technology for mobility and non-disabled employees could not be identified.

vi TABLE OF CONTENTS LIST OF TABLES....................................................................................................xi   LIST OF FIGURES.................................................................................................xii   CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION..............................................................................1   Background of the Problem.......................................................................................1   Statement of the Problem...........................................................................................4   Purpose of the Study..................................................................................................5   Significance of the Problem.......................................................................................5   Nature of the Study....................................................................................................7   Research Questions....................................................................................................9   Theoretical Framework............................................................................................11   Definition of Terms..................................................................................................15   Assumptions.............................................................................................................17   Scope and Limitations..............................................................................................19   Delimitations............................................................................................................20   Summary..................................................................................................................20   CHAPTER 2: REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE..................................................22   Documentation.........................................................................................................23   Articles..............................................................................................................23   Journals.............................................................................................................24   Research Documents and Online Information..................................................24   Literature Review.....................................................................................................24   Medical Model of Disability.............................................................................25  

vii Social Model of Disability................................................................................26   Perceptions About Employees With Disabilities.....................................................29   Employer Perceptions.......................................................................................29   Employee Perceptions......................................................................................34   Disability Legislation...............................................................................................36   The Rehabilitation of Veterans.........................................................................38   The Architectural Barriers Act of 1968............................................................39   The Rehabilitation Act......................................................................................40   Individuals With Disabilities Education Act....................................................41   Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act and National Voter Registration Act......................................................................................42   Fair Housing Act...............................................................................................43   Telecommunications Act..................................................................................43   Air Carrier Access Act......................................................................................44   Americans With Disabilities Act......................................................................44   Employee Empowerment.........................................................................................46   Empowerment of People With Disabilities as an Effective Organizational Strategy....................................................................................................................53   Conclusion...............................................................................................................56   Summary..................................................................................................................58   CHAPTER 3: METHOD.........................................................................................60   Research Design.......................................................................................................60   Appropriateness of Design.......................................................................................61  

viii Research Questions..................................................................................................63   Population................................................................................................................65   Informed Consent.....................................................................................................65   Sampling Frame.......................................................................................................66   Confidentiality.........................................................................................................66   Geographic Location................................................................................................67   Instrumentation........................................................................................................67   Data Collection........................................................................................................69   Data Analysis...........................................................................................................70   Validity and Reliability............................................................................................72   Reliability.........................................................................................................72   Validity.............................................................................................................73   Internal Validity.......................................................................................................73   External Validity......................................................................................................75   Summary..................................................................................................................75   CHAPTER 4: RESULTS.........................................................................................78   Review of the Problem Statement............................................................................79   Review of Method....................................................................................................80   Data Collection Process...........................................................................................81   Interview Findings...................................................................................................82   Preparation and Organization of the Research Data.........................................84   The Exploration of the Research Data..............................................................84  

ix The Description and Development of Themes Emergent in the Research Data...................................................................................................................84   Individual Textural Descriptions......................................................................89   Individual Structural Descriptions....................................................................96   Composite Textural Descriptions...................................................................100   Composite Structural Descriptions.................................................................104   Textural-Structural Descriptions....................................................................105   Summary................................................................................................................106   CHAPTER 5: CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS.........................108   Limitations and Delimitations of the Study...........................................................108   Overview of Study Findings..................................................................................110   Findings..................................................................................................................112   Description of the Sample..............................................................................112   Observed Empowerment................................................................................112   Observed Differences of Empowerment........................................................113   Observed Causes of Differences.....................................................................114   Potential Significance of the Study........................................................................115   Conclusions............................................................................................................116   Recommendations for Future Study......................................................................117   Summary................................................................................................................118   REFERENCES......................................................................................................120   APPENDIX A: TABLES.......................................................................................136   APPENDIX B: INFORMED CONSENT AND INTRODUCTORY E-MAIL....141  

x APPENDIX C: FIGURE........................................................................................144   APPENDIX D: PERMISSION MEMO.................................................................146  

xi LIST OF TABLES Table A1 Phenomenological Study Process..........................................................137   Table A2 Comparison of Qualitative Research Methods......................................138   Table A3 Observed Empowerment........................................................................139   Table A4 Observed Differences of Empowerment.................................................139   Table A5 Observed Causes of Differences............................................................140  

xii LIST OF FIGURES Figure C1. Qualitative process of data analysis. Note. From Educational Research: Planning, Conducting and Evaluating Quantitative and Qualitative Research (p. 231), by J. W. Creswell, 2005, Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. Copyright 2005 by Prentice Hall..................................................................145  

1 CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION Workplace integration and the empowerment of employees with disabilities is an issue of importance to employers, employees, unions, and policy makers (Williams, 2004). The federal government has enacted legislation to ensure the business sector addresses the issue (Americans With Disabilities Act [ADA], 1990). Assistive technology provides an avenue to make integration efforts successful on behalf of individuals with disabilities (Faife, 2007). Little research exists on the amount of empowerment afforded employees with physical disabilities who use assistive technology for mobility. The current study involved observations about the empowerment of employees with physical disabilities within a federal organization. The increasing numbers of individuals with disabilities in the workforce and federal mandates indicate the increasing importance of the issue. Background of the Problem Employees with disabilities are represented in the United States’ workforce (US Department of Labor, 2008). According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP; ODEP Policy Home Page, 2006), “18,525,862 persons with disabilities are in the workforce” (para 2). The ADA (1990) identifies a person with disabilities as one who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the person’s major life activities . . . [such as] caring for oneself, seeing, hearing, walking, breathing, speaking, learning, sitting, standing, lifting, reaching, and working; has a record of such an impairment; or is regarded as having such an impairment. (Section 1.2.1.0.2, para. 2)

2 The ADA protects individuals with disabilities from discrimination in the workplace (ADA, 1990). The act states, No covered entity shall discriminate against a qualified individual with a disability because of the disability of such individual in regard to job application procedures, the hiring, advancement, or discharge of employees, employee compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment. (Section 1.2.1.1.2, para. a) In 2001, President George W. Bush expanded the efforts begun by the ADA by introducing the Empowering Through New Freedom Initiative (The White House Home Page, 2006). The design of the initiative was to help the population with disabilities to “participate more fully in all aspects of society through access to assistive and universally designed technology” (The White House Home Page, 2006, para. 1). While technology simplifies work tasks for all individuals, assistive technology makes everyday living, as well as accomplishing work tasks, possible for people with disabilities (ODEP Home Page, 2006). Public Law 100-407, Technology-Related Assistance for Individuals With Disabilities Act of 1988, defines assistive technology as “any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off-the-shelf, modified or customized that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of [individuals] with disabilities” (Section 3, para. (a)(3)). The developments in law that link discrimination against individuals with disabilities, assistive technology for workers with disabilities, and empowerment of individuals with disabilities has changed the way organizations manage the workforce (A Guide to Disability Rights Laws, 2005). Researchers in the field of employee

3 empowerment have noted organizations that empower employees to direct the course of the organization result in lower absenteeism, lower turnover rates, and commitment to the organization (Marshall, Talbot, & Bukovinski, 2006; Nedd, 2006; Ugboro, 2006). Power (2006) stated that employees with disabilities should have the empowerment concept operationally defined within their own mind early in the job search process. Defining the empowerment concept may begin with consulting a job placement service or a vocational rehabilitation counselor. The empowerment an individual with disabilities desires in a job situation should be a guiding principle of the job search and finalized as part of the job placement process (Power, 2006). A study of the revised consumer-directed theory of empowerment found a relationship between the empowerment afforded individuals with disabilities in a work setting and the level of integration the employee experiences in the work environment (Kosiulek, 2005). The integration issue requires employers to go beyond simply including individuals with disabilities in the workplace environment (Williams, 2004). The effort requires rethinking work processes to allow employees access to information that provides them the power to make decisions that commit an organization to a course of action (Ugboro, 2006). Research showed the use of assistive technology significantly increased the empowerment of students with disabilities in a school setting (Hong, Ivy, Gonzalez, & Ehrensberger, 2007; O’Donnell, 2005). However, a theme that is lacking in disability research is the amount of empowerment afforded to employees with disabilities who use assistive technology to accomplish work tasks.

4 Statement of the Problem People with disabilities work in a variety of environments (Butterfield & Ramsuer, 2004, p. 201). With the average age of the federal workforce increasing and more employees reaching retirement age, leaders in the federal sector must find competent, knowledgeable individuals to fill vacant positions and seamlessly commit the federal government to sound courses of action (Federal Civilians’ Workforce Statistics: The Fact Book, 2004; Stivers & Hummel, 2007). One possible source is employees with disabilities currently working in federal organizations (ODEP Home Page, 2006). The problem is a disparity exists between the empowerment given to employees with physical disabilities who use assistive technology for mobility and other employees within the federal government. The trend excludes a source of experienced and available employees from leadership positions within the organization and creates a deficit in the federal sector’s ability to maintain a highly qualified and ready workforce (ODEP Home Page, 2006). The current phenomenological qualitative study included observations of employees and managers concerning the empowerment afforded employees with disabilities within one organization within the federal government. A sample of employees and managers of the Program Executive Office for Army Aviation (PEO AVN) at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, was interviewed. Managers at the PEO AVN at Redstone Arsenal may use the study results to validate the organization’s Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) initiatives and highlight areas for continuous improvement; managers at other federal agencies may use the study as documentation to address similar concerns in relation to cohorts with disabilities.

5 Purpose of the Study The purpose of the phenomenological qualitative study was to explore observations of federal employees regarding the empowerment assigned to employees with physical disabilities within a federal organization who use assistive technology for mobility. The research study included an examination and comparison of ideas, themes, and observations about the phenomenon of empowerment as it applies to federal employees with physical disabilities who use assistive technology for mobility. The phenomenological, qualitative method was an effective approach for the research study, as phenomenological research addresses the meaning of human experience (Moustakas, 1994). The study involved in-depth interviews with a random sample of employees and managers of the PEO AVN at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, to determine if an observed disparity exists between the empowerment afforded employees with physical disabilities who use assistive technology for mobility and other employees within the organization. A random sampling strategy is “the best and simplest way to draw a population sample” (Creswell, 2005, p. 597). The random sampling technique ensured every PEO AVN employee had an “equal opportunity to be included in the sample, and pure chance. . . [was] the only factor that [determined] who. . .[was in] the sample” (Creswell, 2005, p. 597). Significance of the Problem The significance of the study was achieving a greater understanding of the empowerment afforded federal employees with physical disabilities who use assistive technology for mobility. Leaders in the federal sector must find competent,

6 knowledgeable individuals to fill vacant positions and seamlessly commit the federal government to sound courses of action (Federal Civilians’ Workforce Statistics: The Fact Book, 2004; Stivers & Hummel, 2007). The study represents an important effort to show that individuals with physical disabilities currently employed in the federal sector can serve as a potential source for meeting this need. Any recommendations for empowering federal employees with disabilities may increase the federal sector’s long-term potential for achieving mandated EEO goals. The motivation for the study was to enhance understanding of how assistive technology impacts the empowerment federal employees with disabilities are assigned. W. Roy Grizzard, Jr., Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Disability Employment Policy, reported , “The vision of ODEP is a world in which people with disabilities have unlimited employment opportunities” (ODEP Home Page, 2006, para. 5). Government agencies are required to show an active commitment to providing assistive technology to federal employees with disabilities (Exec. Order No. 13217, 2001). Without a strong understanding and a commitment by leadership to inclusion efforts for individuals with disabilities, the ability of the federal sector to maintain a highly qualified and ready workforce is under serious threat due to increasing numbers of federal employees reaching retirement eligibility (ODEP Home Page). The ability of the federal government to continue to meet the established EEO initiatives may rest on current leaders and their ability to make individuals with disabilities a viable part of the workforce (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission [EEOC] Home Page, 2008). Altman and Barnartt (2003) emphasized a number of areas in disability research in need of investigation, including the physical environment and factors that contribute to

7 negative work experiences encountered by employees with disabilities. Attitudes that may influence the empowerment of individuals with disabilities are important to identify as the federal government proceeds with the implementation of the Empowering Through New Freedom Initiative. The purpose of the initiative is to achieve inclusion of individuals with disabilities in the workforce through the use of assistive technology (Altman & Barnartt). An understanding of managerial attitudes concerning the empowerment of individuals with disabilities may further the body of knowledge in disability research (Brostrand, 2006). The federal government has previously been used as a population in leadership research. The current study included interviews with employees and managers to discuss personal perspectives of empowering employees with physical disabilities. According to Creswell (2005), interviews are successful for discussing personal perspectives in qualitative research because the atmosphere allows interviewees to ask questions or provide comments in addition to answering the questions. Investigating personal observations of the empowerment of employees with disabilities in a federal organization can serve as the first step to helping federal leaders recognize employees with disabilities as a valuable organizational resource. The effort adds to the existing body of knowledge on the empowerment of employees with disabilities. Nature of the Study The research method for the study was a phenomenological qualitative approach. The purpose of using the phenomenological qualitative approach was to explain a phenomenon occurring within a work organization (Creswell, 2005). The phenomenon under study was the empowerment of employees with physical disabilities. The research

8 design was compatible with social problem explorations using grounded theory to explain interactions among a group of people (Creswell). One method for discovering how individuals perceive others or an event in a particular setting is through field research, which involves making observations within natural settings (Creswell, 2005). Obtaining observations in a federal workplace was appropriate to understand the empowerment afforded employees with disabilities in a federal organization (Creswell). The effort provided the opportunity to “acquire an insider’s point of view while maintaining the analytic perspective or distance of an outsider” (Neuman, 2003, p. 369). Interviews with a representative sample of employees within the organization presented a culture-sharing, ethnographic perspective of the issue (Creswell). The answers provided to interview questions revealed the attitudes and beliefs that the organization’s members hold concerning the empowerment of their cohorts with disabilities (Creswell). The review of literature on several topics related to the empowerment of employees with physical disabilities identified theories that applied to the problem. The topics under review included theories of disability, the history of vocational rehabilitation, employee empowerment, managerial attitudes toward employees with disabilities, and the potential effect on the empowerment afforded employees with disabilities. Explanations of the theories include their history, application, and relevance to the study (Creswell, 2005). Adequate and available resources were available to conduct the study. The required resources included time, availability of setting, and population access. The established need for the study was an expressed need for the increased empowerment of federal employees, especially employees with disabilities.

9 The research participants were employees and managers within a federal organization. Identification of research participants occurred through the organization’s contact list. Participants were identified by a signed informed consent form. Data collection occurred through an in-depth, open-ended interviewing technique. Interviews lasting approximately 15 to 30 minutes were conducted in a face-to-face forum. Each interview consisted of a three-phase process. The first, or introduction, phase included explaining the purpose of the study, defining relevant terms, and discussing assumptions. The second phase of the interview process involved asking the interview questions. The concluding phase of the process involved reminding participants of study confidentiality and requesting contact for follow-up and feedback on study conclusions. The interviews were video tape recorded and transcribed. The interviewees received the interview transcripts for review and concurrence. The post interview notes were recorded on audio tape. Data analysis included analysis of the interviews and concurrent comparative analysis of trends in other industries with regard to the empowerment of employees with disabilities. Appropriate analytical evaluation software provided support for study conclusions. The results of the field data highlighted trends and concerns within the organization with regard to the empowerment of employees with disabilities and provided possible avenues for further research and continuous improvement efforts. Research Questions The primary research question derived from the main purpose of the study, which was to explore observations about the empowerment assigned within a federal organization to employees with physical disabilities who use assistive technology for

10 mobility. The definition of empowerment within the study was the authority to commit a federal organization to a course of action. The study followed the ADA’s (1990) definition of disability. The leadership style that defines the 21st-century world of business is transformational leadership (Friedman & Langbert, 2000). One characteristic of transformational leadership is a leader’s willingness to empower employees at lower levels to make decisions and allocate resources to enhance employee self-efficacy (Newstrom & Davis, 2004). Enhancing self-efficacy and providing opportunities for control are basic precepts that are important to the development of independence for people with disabilities, both personally and professionally (ODEP Home Page, 2006). One wonders if the empowerment afforded employees with disabilities who must use assistive technology to accomplish their jobs is the same as the empowerment afforded their coworkers without disabilities (Doke, 2005). The question of interest for the study was the following: Is the empowerment afforded an employee with a physical disability who must use assistive technology for mobility different from the empowerment afforded the employee’s peers without disabilities who do not use assistive technology for mobility? The question of interest led to the development of three research questions: 1. What empowerment do employees observe is provided to employees with physical disabilities who use assistive technology for mobility? 2. What are the observed differences in empowerment that exist between employees with physical disabilities who use assistive technology for mobility and their peers without disabilities?

11 3. What are the underlying causes of observed differences in empowerment between employees with physical disabilities who use assistive technology and employees without disabilities? Reasonable accommodations can mean many things with respect to employees with disabilities, but the majority of accommodations concern physical and technological changes (Doke, 2005). For many employers, the requirement of reasonable accommodation relates “only to one individual at one particular point in time” (Doke, p. 20). Such a view of reasonable accommodation by managers can affect the empowerment afforded workers with disabilities within an organization (Jones & Schmidt, 2004). These attitudes and management practices make it necessary to identify whether a disparity exists between the empowerment given to employees with and without disabilities (Jones & Schmidt). Determining management and employee attitudes with respect to assistive technology in the workplace is important due to the increased numbers of employees with disabilities in professional positions (Faife, 2007). Having increased numbers of individuals with disabilities employed in professional capacities makes it necessary to determine if managers are prepared and willing to offer individuals with disabilities the empowerment opportunities offered their peers without disabilities (ODEP Home Page, 2006). Positive managerial attitudes about people with physical disabilities provide organizations with talented employees (ODEP Home Page). Theoretical Framework The theoretical framework of the research study involved a qualitative approach to discover a sense of understanding of empowerment in federal business organizations.

12 The study also included an exploration of organizational strategies for applying the concept of empowerment to employees with physical disabilities who use assistive technology for mobility. An exploration of the tenets of organizational behavior and leadership revealed where discrepancies exist; the work involved interviews and meetings to develop a dialogue to gain understanding. A discussion of the issues occurred through a framework of transformational leadership theory and the technology acceptance model to understand the relationships between the empowerment of individuals with physical disabilities and their use of assistive technology for mobility (Stylianou & Jackson, 2007). The objective was to view the world from the perspective of the people studied. Because many of the employees in the organization are Army officers and enlisted personnel, the study presented a militaristic perspective. According to Weiskittel (1999), military leadership is autocratic and resembles the style of leaders in the preclassical era. “Autocratic leadership involves the use of commands and expected compliance. The leader is dogmatic and uses power to give or withhold rewards and punishment” (Weiskittel, p. 467). The research included a current view of employee empowerment and cultural diversity that leaders can use to learn and grow. Examining the concepts from a historical perspective provides a framework for the study. According to Luecke (1994), [Drawing] from the past, . . . the experience[s] of men and women who have already faced difficult situations . . . in leadership . . . are fundamentally the same as those encountered today . . . ; the past is a storehouse of human experience that is ours for the taking. (p. 8)

13 The Industrial Revolution was a historical example of the beginnings of assistive technology, delegation, and empowerment in the workplace (Luecke, 1994). With the growth in technology and the number of goods produced increasing, entrepreneurs were able to expand their organizations and increase efficiency through the use of assistive technology (Wren, 2004). The expansion meant that lower level managers were required to supervise the growing workforce and the concept of delegation was born, which is the forerunner of the concept of empowerment (Wren). The railroad was the first big business in the United States (Wren, 2004). A historical examination of the railroad’s organizational structure provides a framework for the federal organization that is the setting of the current study. Wren described the Age of Rails and its organizational structure as follows: The railroads . . . grew to such a size and complexity that means had to be developed of coping with massive financial requirements, developing integrated systems of trackage and station agents, spreading large fixed costs, and handling a labor force dispersed over a wide geographical area. (p. 84) The vastness of the railroad industry forced managers to readjust and restructure their methods of management and leadership (Wren, 2004). Daniel McCallum, an architect, articulated the new structure. McCallum advocated an organization that was very specific. Workers were placed in grades based on tasks and required skill, workers were required to wear uniforms, and job duties were specific to stop workers from doing their jobs “any way they pleased” (Wren, p. 86), and the first organizational chart that pictorially depicted an organization was developed.

14 The civil service organization under study is similar to the railroad system outlined by McCallum. Employees’ jobs are placed in a grade structure called a General Schedule that ranges from Grades 1 to 15. The grade assigned to a specific job is determined by the job tasks and skills required. The basis of pay is the grade; the higher the grade, the higher the salary. Each job has a specific set of tasks set down in a written position description and all organizations are identified pictorially by organizational charts (U.S. Office of Personnel Management Home Page, 2006). Employee accountability, responsibility, and rigid discipline were a direct result of the system and organization model developed by McCallum (Wren, 2004). These expectations of employers have changed very little. The subject of organizational science concerns goal setting and defined levels of authority (Gergen & Thackenberry, 1996). The difference between the ideas of McCallum and those of organizational science is that in 21st-century business, employees play an active role in defining their goals and responsibilities. Employees are self-disciplined, which is a characteristic of empowered employees (Gergen & Thackenberry). In McCallum’s model, the decisions were imposed on employees and discipline was a duty of management (Wren). The examination of leadership models over the course of time highlights similarities and differences between leadership models of the early 1990’s and earlier models (Luecke, 1994). The historical overview emphasizes that although the concepts of empowerment and assistive technology have roots in the very beginnings of formal work organizations, little evidence exists of how these concepts are being addressed with respect to employees with disabilities in 21st-century organizations (Wren, 2004). Historical research also revealed that disability research has not adequately addressed the

15 issue of empowerment and disability (Obermann, 1980). The current study provides a needed view of this important tenet of leadership research. The historical framework has shown how behavior, organizations, attitudes, and external sources such as technology have worked together in business (Wren, 2004). The unified effort brought the concept of leadership into the 21st century (Friedman & Langbert, 2000). The combination of these disciplines provided a starting point for studying how the workforce with disabilities fits into the transformational leadership paradigm (Friedman & Langbert). Definition of Terms The definition section provides clarity to the meaning of specific terms used in the study (Creswell, 2005). For the purpose of the study, an individual with a disability is a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the person’s major life activities . . . [such as] caring for oneself, seeing, hearing, walking, breathing, speaking, learning, sitting, standing, lifting, reaching, and working; has a record of such an impairment; or is regarded as having such an impairment. (ADA, 1990, Section 1.2.1.0.2, para. 2) Public Law 100-407, Technology-Related Assistance for Individuals With Disabilities Act of 1988, defined assistive technology as “any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off-the-shelf, modified or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of [individuals] with disabilities” (Section 3, para. 2).

16 The term reasonable accommodation was coined in the ADA (1990). The term involves making existing facilities used by employees readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities; and job restructuring, part-time or modified work schedules, reassignment to a vacant position, acquisition or modification of equipment or devices, appropriate adjustment or modifications of examinations, training materials or policies, the provision of qualified readers or interpreters, and other similar accommodations for individuals with disabilities. (Section 1.2.1.1.1, para. 9) The EEOC Home Page (2007) reported, Equal Employment Opportunity is defined as the Federal laws prohibiting job discrimination. These laws are: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin;

Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA), which protects men and women who perform substantially equal work in the same establishment from sex- based wage discrimination;

Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), which protects individuals who are 40 years of age or older;

Title I and Title V of the ADA, which prohibit employment discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities in the private sector, and in state and local governments;

17

Sections 501 and 505 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibit discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities who work in the federal government; and

Civil Rights Act of 1991, which, among other things, provides monetary damages in cases of intentional employment discrimination. (para. 1) Chemers (2003) defined leadership as “a process of social influence in which one person is able to enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task” (p. 27). A peer review is a process by which data are confirmed to be adequate and ordinary. Creswell and Miller (2000) defined a peer review as follows: “A peer review or debriefing is the review of the data and research process by someone who is familiar with the research or the phenomenon being explored” (p. 129). Transformational leadership is a process between leaders and followers where both are lifted to “higher levels of motivation and morality” (Bass, 1999, p. 9). Empowerment is the authority to commit a federal organization to a course of action (M. Yarborough, personal communication, May 14, 2008). Disparity is “the condition or fact of being unequal, as in age, rank, or degree; difference; unlikeness; incongruity” (American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, n.d., para. 1). Assumptions Assumptions are statements presumed to be true for the purpose of the study (Vogt, 1999). The primary assumption was that participants provided honest opinions

Full document contains 161 pages
Abstract: This qualitative, empirical phenomenological study focused on the observations of 13 federal employees concerning the empowerment afforded employees with physical disabilities in an organization who use assistive technology for mobility. The 13 federal employees were interviewed to assess their lived experiences of empowerment as it applies to federal employees with physical disabilities who use assistive technology for mobility. Horizonalization, techniques and textural and structural descriptions were applied to produce clear and common themes. Three major themes emerged: (a) observed empowerment, (b) differences in empowerment and (c) causes for differences in empowerment. The results of the study allowed three main conclusions to be drawn: (a) physically disabled federal employees who use assistive technology for mobility and their non-disabled counterparts were empowered equally. (b) differences of empowerment between employees with and without disabilities were nonexistent (c) causes of differences in empowerment between physically disabled federal employees who use assistive technology for mobility and non-disabled employees could not be identified.